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May 24, 2011

Obama Demands Reforms in Syria During UK Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama pressed for reforms in Syria Wednesday after his meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Obama said in a news conference after the meeting that the allies will continue "increasing pressure" on Syrian President Bashar Assad "in order to end his policy of repression and begin the change that people seek."

In the face of months of popular unrest and mounting international criticism, Assad's government promised on Wednesday to study economic reforms and a new media law.

Syria's state news agency Sana reported that Assad's cabinet reduced the cost of diesel by 25 percent "in response to the citizens' demands and the economic, social and service considerations" concerning the fuel.

Middle East analyst Robert Satloff discusses Syria options with Susan Yackee:

The change is expected to go into effect Wednesday.

The report also said the cabinet formed a committee for media development and a new media law and another committee for development and economic reform.

The committees have a deadline of two months to accomplish their missions. It is unclear what changes might be brought by a new media law.

Meanwhile, Syrian media quote Assad as telling religious leaders in the city of Dara'a - which lies at the heart of the nation's uprising against him -- that reform is coming.

Assad's earlier pledges of reform previously have fallen flat with protesters.

Opponents of Assad have been rallying for democratic reforms and an end to his 11-year autocratic rule.

The protests began in southern Syria in mid-March and spread from there. Tens of thousands of Syrians nationwide have defied the government's violent efforts to stop the protests.

Rights groups have estimated that about 1,000 people have died in the government's crackdown against the protesters.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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